Best books on keeping in touch: Author Patricia Nicol recommends tomes about contact with loved ones
- Author Patricia Nicol recommends best selection of books on keeping in touch
- She said as another week of lockdown passes it is important to reach out
- List includes Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave Is Forgiven set in the midst of WW2
My smartphone likes to humiliate me. It used to happen just once a week: a notification would pop up titled ‘Weekly Report Available: You averaged X hours and X minutes screen time’.
Recently, it has started doing what American commentators might call a ‘Daily deep dive’ — a forensic breakdown of all my distraction divided into categories such as social, games, information and reading, productivity and finance.
The evidence culled is shaming: an hour a day on the Scrabble app and, despite lockdown, I spend hours being ‘social’. Since when did monitoring WhatsApp and scrolling Instagram equate to a get-together?
Patricia Nicol recommends a selection of books about contact with loved ones including Chris Cleave’s WW2-set Everyone Brave Is Forgiven (pictured left) and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (pictured right)
I should use my phone more thoughtfully. I do, after all, recall when contact with loved ones could be a fraught, drawn-out and, sometimes, a costly undertaking.
Letters might go astray. Calls could be exorbitant, echoey and ghosted by disconcerting noises. Often the act of reaching out only reinforced the distance between.
So many plots depend on communication, or lack of it. Chris Cleave’s WW2-set Everyone Brave Is Forgiven was inspired by his grandparents’ wartime correspondence. Mary and Alistair meet through Tom, his best friend and her boyfriend. For Tom’s sake, their mutual attraction is set aside. Later, however, she must write to Alistair in besieged Malta. Their letters become a lifeline.
In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner a late-night telephone call summons exiled Afghan-American Amir back to the homeland he fled after the Russian invasion. In Taliban-controlled Kabul, he must do right by his childhood friend, Hassan.
Lionel Shriver’s harrowing We Need To Talk About Kevin is told through the letters Eva Khatchadourian writes to her apparently estranged husband Franklin. No amount of soul-searching can bridge their divide.
With another week of lockdown, I’m not beating myself up for smartphone use that connects me with friends. I can’t visit my friend in York, but we can at least play Scrabble.